Kentucky Sausage Fest by Amager and Against The Grain, My Name Is Ingrid by BrewDog, Mexican Cake by Westbrook, Imperial Donught Break by Evil Twin, and you name it. Beer and brewery names are essential components of any beer label, along with the logo.
Beer labels: an introduction
Beer labels: 1. beer (almost) without label
There are no limits to creativity. Actually, even today, new breweries often refer to the place, the region or the country. Or the name of the founder or founders must serve for the brewery name. Complete fantasy names are still rather rare, well-known examples are among the above-mentioned BrewDog and Evil Twin or Lost Abbey, Crooked Stave and Trois Dames.
Brewery name wanted
The fact that, despite the actually inexhaustible pool of brewery names, multiple uses of one and the same name can occur. That has been known at least since the case of Budweiser Anheuser-Bush(USA) vs. Budweiser Budvar (CZ). The two breweries fought each other in court for years, both claiming the right to exlusively use the name Budweiser. The solution: Budvar is allowed to sell its beer as Budweiser in Europe due to the designation of origin, but Anheuser-Bush is allowed to sell its beer as Budweiser in the USA due to the older entry of the brand name. In the US, the Czechs sell their beer under the name Czechvar, while the Americans sell their beer here as Bud.
There are other such examples. For example, there are two Epic breweries, one in Auckland, New Zealand and one in Salt Lake City, USA. Or just around the corner there are several Feldschlösschen breweries. In addition to the one we know of in Rheinfelden, there are several more in Germany, namely in Hammwinkel, Braunschweig, Dresden, Minden and Ludwigshafen.
Accordingly, it is hardly surprising that if there are breweries with the same name, the apple does not fall far from the tree when it comes to beer names. For example, if you type “Gold Digger” into Untappd, you get more than 8 different beers with the same name. Another example is “Cristal”, a beer name used by breweries from Peru, Chile and Cuba.
Beer names are worth their weight in gold
Especially in the USA, which now has more than 3,000 breweries and brewpubs, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find simple, memorable names for new beers that are not already taken. Names that are already registered by other breweries with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) count as taken. The number of registered beer names is estimated at about 30,000; official figures are not available.
In the increasingly fierce competition between craft breweries in the USA, legal disputes therefore arise time and again. For example, SweetWater Brewing Co. sued Lagunitas Brewery for using the number 420 in the design of its labels; the name of a beer SweetWater produces. Another example is New Belgium Brewing, which took action against Oasis Texa Brewing Co. because the latter used the trademarked beer name “Slow Ride.”
But creativity is better
The example of the Avery and Russian River breweries shows that breweries don’t always have to sue each other right away. Both brewed a beer called Salvation. Instead of fighting each other in court for a lot of money, they agreed to make a blend of one beer and sell it. The idea caught on and much was written about “Collaboration not Litigation,” as the blend is called. This put not only the beer but also both breweries on the radar of beer lovers and money in the breweries’ coffers instead of in the pockets of lawyers.
In Europe, by the way, there are two ways to protect the name of a beer or a brewery. Either on a national level per country or via a so-called Community Trademark, which protects the name throughout the European Union. Non EU member states like Switzerland still have to register the name individually. A test with the name BewDog Punk IPA in the Trademark Search shows, however, that the protection of beer names in Europe is probably less consistently strived for than in America. Punk IPA, in fact, is registered as a protected term in only one country, America. The BrewDog brand, on the other hand, is also protected in Europe and beyond.
All of this may be part of the reason that beers are given particular names like Siberian Black Magic Panter, DORIS the Destroyer, Bearded Lady Pedro Ximenez, or even Kentucky Sausage Fest. These are not so obvious, therefore not taken and are easier to protect. On the other hand, it could also be because the brewers have simply had one too many glasses of Mexican Cake.